We have to be honest — we didn’t come up with the title for this article by ourselves. Actually it was inspired by a Newsweek article from 1995. The article was titled “The Internet? Bah” which Newsweek published that year. The article was written by an author named Clifford Stanford, and throughout the article he made it very clear how skeptical he was of that new fangled internet technology.
The following are the bits and pieces we found the most entertaining and thought others might enjoy as well.
Computer networks are stupid anyways:
“Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.
Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher, and no computer network will change the way government works.“
You will never buy books and newspapers online.
“How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure.”
No place in schools for computers:
“We’re told that multimedia will make schoolwork easy and fun. Students will happily learn from animated characters while taught by expertly tailored software.Who needs teachers when you’ve got computer-aided education? Bah. These expensive toys are difficult to use in classrooms and require extensive teacher training.”
Online shopping = worthless:
“Then there’s cyber business. We’re promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month?”
It was hard to limit this post to these four and we really just wanted to copy and paste the entire article. Every single line of the article made us smile and feel genuinely sorry for the author. Obviously he never thought a database of articles would ever exist online to come back and prove him wrong (Oh, the irony!). While it’s comical to read today, back in 1995 it probably made a lot more sense. He wasn’t saying these things about the internet we are using today. He was saying this about the internet back then. This was a time without Google, Facebook or Amazon. The internet was a mess and was loaded with problems and challenges. This author wasn’t the only person who was reasonably skeptical about all the fanciful speculations about the internet — thousands of others were as well. It would be easy to mock these people who were wrong and rub it in their face, but the most productive thing we could do is use these types of events as a lesson.
For those of us born in the late 80’s and early 90’s, we grew up with the internet being a major part of our lives. We didn’t have to adopt the technology, we simply had to learn to use it and convince our parents we needed to upgrade our dial up connection. Change is hard and we saw older generations struggle to use Google instead of libraries and Amazon instead of RadioShack.
This generation lived their entire lives without this ‘internet thing’. They wrote letters, made phone calls on landlines, and bought things in physical stores. The internet took everything they knew and flipped it on its head. The internet changed everything. While there were some visionaries who were able to see the future, many spoke out against it. The question to ask is, can you blame the skeptics? Most people are afraid of change, even those who say they aren’t.
We know how the story goes from here. Despite some people opposing it and all the negativity it received, the internet prevailed and has changed the daily lives of billions of people. [Insert way overused Ghandi quote here]. Nearly every industry had to adapt itself for the internet and many industries were eliminated altogether.
We are now facing similar criticisms in the Bitcoin industry. There are critics who strongly oppose it and vociferously mock Bitcoins uses, just like Clifford Stanford did to the internet only 20 years ago. Instead of attacking these critics of Bitcoin, it’s more productive to take a step back and see things from their perspective. It’s not that they really hate Bitcoin, it is that they are part of a large crowd up people who forestall change until they are certain it is safe. If we take a step back and actually consider some of the things we propose Bitcoin will do, it really is absolutely nuts! Of course people will think we are insane! If the industry succeeds in doing what we think it can, Bitcoin will change everything. Much like the internet created a revolution, many expect Bitcoin will do the same. When was the last time there was a revolution without opposition?
When we speak with someone unfamiliar with Bitcoin, we often jump right into the details that make it fascinating. The decentralized distributed network, how mining works under the hood, and the economic advantages for currencies in crisis. While all this stuff is great, it often goes right over their heads. The truth is most people won’t be able to grasp what this all means and until it is tangible, they won’t care.
One of the best methods we’ve found for breaking through with these types of people is to put Bitcoin into a perspective they can understand. And that perspective is putting Bitcoin into the same category as other technologies they use everyday but don’t understand at all — like electricity and the internet. While people can’t fully grasp Bitcoin technology, most can grasp the idea of a technology that seems crazy but ends up changing the way the world operates.
Much like the internet was starting to boom in the mid 90s, the Bitcoin industry is booming today. Sure, the price is down since 2013 but there are much more important metrics to look at it. We like to focus on the the millions of new wallets, thousands of new merchants and $600+ million going into startups to grow the ecosystem. This all equals momentum for the industry and if Newton was right, it will be hard to stop at this point.
So when you are explaining Bitcoin, don’t just talk about how it’s a decentralized distributed public ledger and a protocol that apps can be built on top of. Explain it as a technology that is ALREADY changing everything. The smartest people in the world are getting behind it and the industry is rapidly growing. You have to reframe it into something they can relate to. You have to give them perspective. 99% of the population can’t grasp the technological details of Bitcoin but many of them can distinctly remember a time in their lives when they heard about a technology that sounded radical and changed the world a few years later. These people saw it with the personal computer in the 80s and the internet in the 90s. It is our job to make sure they realize they will be seeing it once again in 2015.